Membership numbers have declined in recent months due in part to economic difficulties but the organization also feels many of its primary objectives have been completed or taken over by other agencies. Created to fill a need witnessed in the community, the BBA and its executive board are proud of the group's accomplishments and actions taken by the business community.
"I believe that our purpose was actually met. We kind of looked up and reevaluated and felt like there were some organizations that really came to the plate to fill in the gaps, one being the [Cartersville-Bartow County] Chamber of Commerce," said Darrell Whipple, 2011 BBA president. "It appeared that with the revitalization of the chamber of commerce and other networking groups, there are some folks that have done a really good job to help mobilize people."
The BBA was founded to give Bartow County businesses additional resources for local information and topics of interest. Another major concern for the organization was giving back to nonprofits and schools. A portion of all dues benefited local charitable efforts and each monthly networking luncheon would donate $100 to a Bartow County school from a sponsoring business.
"We were founded to fill a need we saw in the community. Our thought was to help businesses do well so that they could do good," said Bill Swanson, 2010 BBA president. "Organizations have stepped up and done more networking and other organizations are giving more back to the community."
In addition to regular giving, the BBA sponsored initiatives to give back through innovative programs. In 2007, due to the drought, trees were removed from the Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site, through the BBA, these trees have been transformed into benches now located throughout the county. Benches can be sponsored, then created by Boy Scout Troop 15 and placed in the community for public use.
The BBA also has sponsored an annual event to provide fun and entertainment for patients of the Shepherd Center through a lake day with boating activities and lunch.
For business leaders, the BBA provided special guest speakers at each monthly meeting designed to inform business leaders or provide vital insight. Special programming included political interests including a mayors forum in which mayors from around the county were invited to share about their communities along with Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown. Other politicians making their way through the BBA included 2010 Gubernatorial Candidate Roy Barnes.
"We tried to diversify, so that when a person came on any given month, they'd either get something to help them understand more the community around them or something specifically about business," Whipple said. "In January of every year, we did what we called 'State of the County' and we were able to have Commissioner Brown in. ... We were able to have quite a few folks like that come in and share with us what goes on along with the area mayors were all invited each year to come in on the same day."
As Director of Marketing for Bartow County Chiropractic Clinic, Whipple has served on the BBA board since the organization's inception. He describes how recent years have effected Bartow County businesses and the BBA.
"We started from scratch four years ago and we'd seen our numbers get as high as 55 or so paying members and this year, it seems the economy has just caught up with a lot of folks. Their business has either closed or not been able to renew. ... When you have tough economic times and you see businesses that have been around in Bartow 20 and 30 years that have had to close their doors over the last three years or so, that's been difficult," Whipple said, adding that he sees a change coming as new businesses appear and the community strengthens. "I believe there's a very bright future for us in Bartow."